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Road Bike Racing for Dummies

April 7th, 2011

Cycling is quite the diverse world. It amazes me that there are so many different aspects to the sport. There is road, mountain, track, BMX, cyclocross and more. All of these sports are great participant and spectator sports to be involved with!

Let’s go through how professional road racing works. At the helm of all bicycle compeition is the UCI, the Olympic governing body for cycling. They have set out the rules and calendars for various levels of cycling.

At the top is the ProTour Teams. These teams are ranked the top 20 in the world, have minimum salaries for riders and are automatically invited to the most prestigious races in the world.

Team Cervelo - A ProTour Team

Next below is the ProContinental teams. These teams are the top teams in their respective continents and are given wild card invitations to the big prestigious races. These have lower minimum salary caps and have smaller budgets than the ProTour teams. They also compete internationally just like ProTour teams, but not as much.

At the lowest level of elite level road cycling are the Pro / Amateur Teams. These do not have salary minimums and contain a mixed batch of developing riders and experieced riders and are usually based out of a local area.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the teams, let’s look at the racing calendar.

At the international level there are basic sections to the year of cycling. The season starts in late January and ends in October.

There are two main types of races for road racing. One-Day Races and Stage Races (which have multiple days of racing cumulated together).

The three big stage races are all 3 weeks long each and are called the Grand Tours. In May we have the Giro di Italia, then the Tour de France in July and the Vuelta a Espana in September. The Tour has the highest prestige, followed by the Giro and lastly the Vuelta, but all are very notable.

In between these Grand Tours (and sometimes during), there are other stage races that are about a week long. These are all big races, but not as notable as the Grand Tours. Examples include the Tour of California, Tour de Swiss, and Tour of Qatar. They are interspersed throughout the year.

Paris-Roubaix

Now for the other style of racing. The One Day Races. In the spring, there are a bunch of single day events that are brutal and famous road race courses. These are collectively called the Spring Classics. Some famous spring classics are Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders. Then in the late summer and fall we have several one day races including each country’s national championships and the biggest of ALL races… the World Championships. Riders who win this race get to wear a special white kit with the Olympic Stripes. Riders who win their national championship get to wear a special kit with their country’s flag on it. Talk about fashion!

Thor Hushovd - The Current World Champ

In the US of A, there is the premiere Road Racing series of events called the National Racing Calendar (NRC). These races are where the top U.S. teams go to compete. Other countries also have similar national level series races. At the local level, each state has their own racing organization under the supervision of USA Cycling. USA Cycling is the Olympic governing body for all racing in America.

That’s all for now folks! Now get out there and ride/race! (and watch some cycling!)

Some good websites to follow cycling are below:

Next time around we shall talk about Mountain Bike Racing! Woot Woot!

Best,
Nitish Nag
Osprey Athlete

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